The Democrats' plan to tie more funding for the Iraq war to a timetable for bringing the troops home met its expected fate in the Senate this morning: Fifty-three senators voted for the bill, which was seven short of the 60 votes that seem to be needed to pass anything whenever the Republicans object. A Republican counterproposal -- to provide war funding without any strings attached -- drew only 45 votes.
So what happens now? Democratic leaders have said that if the White House and congressional Republicans won't accept a funding bill with at least a goal of getting the troops out of Iraq by the end of 2008, they won't pass any additional war funding bills this year at all. But as a practical matter, "this year" means only in the remaining days in which Congress is in session. And at a press briefing immediately after the vote, Harry Reid made it clear that he's not really ruling out much of anything.
Reporter: Mr. Leader, is it now your position that you will never again put forward a war spending bill that does not have troop withdrawal deadlines, even next year?
Reid: I've learned a long time ago in this business, "never" is not a word that's in my vocabulary. I think that the House has made their position clear. I recognize the strength of the House; they're equal to what we are. Speaking for the Senate, we're going to continue to do the right thing. And we think the right thing is to have -- I personally would like a lot more accountability than what we have in the so-called Reed-Levin amendment. But I'm very satisfied. I voted for it in good conscience. But we're going to continue to do the right thing for the American people, but having limited accountability for the president, and not a blank check."
A reporter asked Reid if he was at least ruling out the approval of any further funding before the end of 2007. "What I just indicated is we had a vote today," Reid said. "It was 53- 45. We picked up a nice Republican vote. I think that that's extremely important to indicate. We're going to continue to push these same lines. But I think it's also fair to indicate that we're going to watch this very closely."